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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Student Mentor Program

I have recently designed a new program that I am excited about implementing! It's a Student Mentor Program, in which carefully selected older and more responsible students are trained to mentor younger students who may be struggling with social, academic, or behavioral concerns. Similar to "Peer Mediators" or "Peer Helpers", the Student Mentors will help the counselor reach even more students and create a lasting impact on  the school environment.

The program would work great with elementary or middle school, but could also easily be adapted to high school. Alternatively, if you have different level schools nearby, arrange it to have high school students mentor middle school students.

Mentors would be responsible role model students who apply (and interview!) for the position of mentor. They would meet regularly with the School Counselor for quick individual check-ins and for after school group trainings. They will be taught how to help younger students manage conflicts, handle strong emotions, and provide general encouragement and friendship.

Mentees would be students who are "frequent flyers" in the counselor's and/or pricipal's office. The may need additional support outside of what the caring adults in the school can provide. An example of the ideal mentee is one who is constantly asking to speak to the school counselor about little problems, or one who is trying to fit in with their peers. To these students, their mentor will be an older friend who they get to hang out with and talk to once a week.

Student mentors will be trained in being a mentor. They will receive explicit instruction on how to encourage and lead a younger student, and how to help with many problems that they face. In a way, mentors will be "Counselor Helpers" or "Peer Helpers". When the counselor's schedule is packed (like it always is), student mentors can help younger students with some of the small problems that they face, while becoming expert problem solvers themselves!

When and where?
I see this being a year-long program. Mentors should meet with their mentee once per week for 20-30 minutes, during non-instructional time. Training would take place at least once per month after school, when all mentors are able to attend. Mentors would also check in periodically with the counselor (5-10 minutes, before or after school) so that the counselor can monitor their progress and answer any questions they have.

Let's face it- School Counselors are BUSY!! This mentor program is a way that you as a school counselor can impact even more students. You teach mentors how to help, and start the snowball effect of students helping students. Soon enough, your entire school will feel the impact! There have been many studies done about the effects of mentoring on student achievement, but unfortunately there is a lack of willing {adult} mentors in our community. But who says mentors can't be children too?

(Get this poster FREE here)

Suggested steps to implement program:
  1. .    Inform teachers of the mentoring program at a staff meeting. Explain the potential benefits for mentors and for mentees, and how it will impact the school as a whole.
  2. .    Class introduction lesson. Meet with classes of older students to discuss the mentoring program. Emphasize the amount of responsibility and dedication that being a mentor will require. Leave information and copies of the Mentor Application with teacher. Teacher will give applications to students who are interested, as well as the parent information sheet. (Another possible route is to open the applications up to your student council or other student leadership groups, or simply ask teacher for recommendations and ask those specific students if they are interested)
  3. .    Once students turn in complete applications, meet with those students individually or in a small group (lunch bunch). Discuss overall objective of the program, specific requirements, and answer any questions they may have.
  4. .    Meet with possible mentees, explaining what their mentor will be doing with them. Give mentees pre-assessment. Mentees should be students in younger grades who need additional support, but do not typically have big problems or concerns. Check with parents of mentees before initiating mentoring.
  5. .    Schedule after-school training session to go over additional details of the program. (See list below of suggested training items) Give out pre-assessments to all mentors.
  6. .    Pair up mentors with mentees.
  7. .    Meet regularly with mentors to discuss progress (before school check-ins or during lunch) 

Suggested Trainings: At each training, include a handout for students to keep in their notebook for reference. I would suggest doing an interactive notes style handout to further engage the students.
  •       What specifically is expected of mentors (What is a mentor? How can I help?)
  •       How to conduct a peer mediation session
  •       Promoting empathy and kindness in others
  •       Strategies for handling anger, sadness, stress
  •       Strategies for solving "small problems"
  •       What is effective communication?
  •       What to do if… (reporting "big" problems, what if you're not sure what to say?, etc)

Other fun mentor program ideas
  •       Have a "Mentor Night" or "Mentor Fair" at the end of the school year where student mentors present information on their impact with younger students. Have students create trifold poster with what they have learned from the program, how they helped their mentees, and the overall impact of the mentoring program on the school. For maximum participation, hold the event during a PTA night or in conjunction with other big school events (talent show, science fair, etc)
  •       Create matching T-shirts or bags for mentees (Vistaprint!)
  •       Give out certificates for participation in the Mentor program at Honor Roll ceremony.

If you are interested in starting a Student Mentoring Program at your school, check out my Student Mentor Program Pack on Teachers Pay Teachers! It includes information sheets, application, Mentor Notebook pages, assessments, and four training lessons. 
Student Mentor Program

Finally, if you have started a Student Mentoring Program at your school, I'd love to hear how it is going and any suggestions that you have for the program!

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